There's this new book at work, The New Woman, by Jon Hassler, that looked kinda interesting. It sounded a little like Jan Karon's Mitford series. That's a series about the folks living in Mitford, a fictional town in the Blue Ridge Mountains. I read a coupla books in that series; I liked following the people and relationships through several books. Reading those coupla books, though, I wasn't involved with the people, relationships and events very much. I thought things were a little too peachy keen, a little too kind and gentle, i.e., not realistic. And I wasn't getting attached to the characters.
The New Woman is the most recent in a series about the folks living in Staggerford, a fictional town somewhere in Minnesota. From the book jacket description, it sounded like its characters might be a little more interesting than the Mitford characters. So I decided to begin at the beginning and read the first book in the series, Staggerford.
We didn't have the book, but another library with whom we have a lending relationship had it, so I ordered it. My PSA of the day: If your library doesn't have the item you want, they're probably part of a group of libraries with inter-library lending relationships. Staff can order it for you or, if your library's catalog is online, you can prolly order it yourself.
I hadn't read fiction in a while and I kinda dug this book, so I pretty much devoured it. There are several main characters, but the main main character is Miles Pruitt. He's a 35 year old high school English teacher in Staggerford and is himself a product of the town and its public schools. The book covers a week in the lives of Miles and other townies.
I like the guy's writing style and the characters; I definitely got invested in them. Warning:
Yeah, so, Staggerford the town is kinda depressing: way small; way isolated; way dull.
But I like the people. Miles is wryly funny; dull in some ways. Agatha, his landlady, is a very proper senior lady; she reminds me of Miss Marple. Imogene lives with her mother next door to Miles and Agatha; she's obsessed with knowledge in the form of facts, figures, etc.; she is, in short, your stereotypical librarian. Ack! Beverly is one of Miles's students; a lost soul. The school principal's character is a bit one-sided, but he's a negative character anyway. His wife, Anna Thea, is better drawn; she and her husband are your basic odd couple. Miles pines for her from afar. Miles and Anna Thea get along great; they dated a bit, but Miles missed his chance and Anna Thea ended up marrying the dork/jerk. Miles and Anna Thea are, at bottom, very good friends and well matched. They enjoy similar things, they have fun together, they share opinions and views, etc.
So I'm motoring through this book/a week in Staggerford. Miles is helping Beverly. So is Agatha. Anna Thea seems to begin realizing what a jerk her husband is. Her husband also seems to have it in for Miles, who teaches at his school. Okay, okay, okay, a little drama going on between two JDs: one Caucasian, one Native American (the book's from the 1970s, so it still uses 'Indian'). Mmmm, that was a little drawn out and possibly over the top (I wouldn't know if the extent of the conflict is realistic or not). The crisis is averted, thanks very much in part to Miles. Beverly's starting to see a way out of her wretched life. Agatha's taking her under her wing. And then blam! Miles is killed! Killed, I say! I was really looking forward to reading about him in the next in the series, but Hassler killed him off.
Argh. IRL, there have been several situations where I've felt that the wrong person in a relationship died. E.g., my parents' former neighbors, the Blums. They had one daughter; I don't remember her at all. She was quite a bit older than my brothers and me. Anyway, Mr. Blum died when I was in grade school. He was so nice and gentle. Mrs. Blum was a loud, bossy, complaining broad. She was always obese, enough so that she needed assistance doing ordinary things. When she could still get around, she used a shopping cart or something similar to help her get around. I dunno why she didn't just use a walker. Plus, a shopping cart seems a rather poor choice for an ambulatory assistance device, what with having four unlockable wheels and all. Plus plus, did she steal the shopping cart? As she got older, she was less able to get around, assisted or not, until finally it took a mighty effort to go from one room to another or do other, ordinary things. She expected other people to do things for her just bc, uh, I dunno why. E.g., another neighbor's dog got into her yard and took a dump. She calls over to our house to tell us so one of us can go clean it up! How about calling the dog's owner? (FYI, I told my brother Jay that the phone call was for him. Nice, I know.) So, I'm sure you can see that my point is that Mrs. Blum shoulda died and Mr. Blum survived her, if only bc he was a much better person than she.
Back to the book: Po', po' Miles! How could he die, leaving his soulmate Anna Thea still married to that loser? Why not the loser die and Miles and Anna Thea hook up? I thought, This sucks! I cannot believe I read this whole book, got all into the people, and my main man is killed!
I think I like this kinda book bc it's similar to why I like my town: the characters. It's small enough (though not nearly as small as Staggerford) that you get to know people and relationships, including some priceless personalities and interactions.
I suppose it's best that something like Miles getting killed happen. Otherwise, it would be all nicey nicey and mushy and, like, happy and whatnot.